Teaching Students to Learn

Don’t Push Out - Let Them Pull In

Friday, October 12, 2007
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

The human desire to learn is not substantially different, regardless of age, unless there are physical or genetic discrepancies. We humans learn because we want to or because we need to. Not to oversimplify, but the normal human brain can learn at any age> and learning is all about motivation. We are motivated to learn because of some external reason where we need to learn - for a job or life requirement - or for some internal reason - learn to drive, or become a better person, etc. - that encourages our brain to want to learn.

In schools, it is our lack of connection to these extrinsic and intrinsic factors for learning that are causing us so much trouble. This lack of connection happens either from boredom or avoidance. We are bored with the fact that the information being “taught” has little meaning or connection to us, or, the method is so boring we can’t stay attentive. Teachers that make material meaningful are more successful and teachers that encourage the learner to build connections are even more successful. Because the issue of compliance is based on student attendance and behavior, there is little incentive for students to be successful. As long as we believe in the student compliance based, behavioral approach to “teaching” we will not be successful in schools improving student performance.

Dr. Patrick Faverty
Click to enlarge photo

Dr. Patrick Faverty

Student success in school is based as much on teacher behavior as on student behavior. Successful teacher behavior is based on student-centered learning.

Larry Lezotte, the developer of the Effective Schools movement, has been promoting the theoretical paradigm shift in changing the mission of education from “teaching” to “learning.” He makes a simple point in identifying how we need to view this change. Lezotte says we must move from the “outside in” teaching method - teaching info pushed into student minds as we do it today - to the “inside out” learning process - the child’s brain learning by pulling in. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

And, by the way, learning has always been about the individual taking in information. Not to exaggerate, but there really is no such thing as teaching without the learner’s permission, interest, and desire.

For the last 150 years we have assumed that students will learn that which we “teach” them. If controlling information input - teaching, as it were - needs the learner’s engagement and participation to learn we then must ask, “How do we get the learner to choose to learn?” With this question we’re now getting closer to the real commitment and focus we need for education. The next iteration of the question probably should be, “How do we motivate the student to want to learn that which we know he or she needs to learn?”

However, do any of us, in these times of such remarkable change, actually think we know what our children will “need to know” twenty years from now?

We are not an old-fashioned industrial culture anymore. The success of our society today is based on creative thinking and creative development. If, in fact, the point of education must be to prepare our children for their future, then our primary focus must be on encouraging the learning process itself. Specifically, students need to be confident that if they do not have the necessary skills, they know how to learn the skills needed.

These new literacy skills of the 21st century are about how to find and use appropriate information to solve problems they encounter.

Dr. Patrick Faverty is the academic coordinator of the joint doctoral program in Educational Leadership at the Gevirtz School.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

A very well written post Patrick...being in the field of education or more than half of my life I can very well connect to the points you have mentioned here...all the points are making sense but I loved the one where you says that "lack of connection".
I am a research analyst and find such information worth mentioning in my research, for more information regarding such topics please feel to visit

ELearners (anonymous profile)
September 19, 2013 at 3:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

very interesting and thanks. The point that "learning has always been about the individual taking in information" really does seem paramount and basic. I looked at the Lezotte site.
What about the frantic push -- we see it in LAUSD -- to slam iPads, laptops, etc. into younger students' hands and then [Common Core] the elaborate standardized testing regimen? I always thought teaching/learning and learning/teaching went hand in hand.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
September 19, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice read. A great advice for the teachers who are going to begin their professional career in the education field. thanks for your efforts

alicemartin (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

dateline "Oct. 12, 2007"?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 1, 2013 at 4:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice article, A good tip for teachers that who are going to begin their career in the teaching field.

andrewalpert4 (anonymous profile)
April 19, 2014 at 6:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think that teachers usually have problems with the lack of time, and consequently, they (usually) don't spend time in learning. This is very frequent where I live.

Stewartagron (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2014 at 12:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No wonder our schools are failing, if this is the state of art of academic educational theory.

The sooner K-12 gets back to reading, writing and arithmetic so students come to higher education with their basics skills well under control, the sooner real higher education can finally begin.

But you can't teach critical thinking when students have no solid foundation in the basics in the first place. What planet is this guy coming from and no wonder teacher training in this state falls so far below national standards.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2014 at 9:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Things are bit change since you are working under his command you must do with your own.

StephenParkes (anonymous profile)
August 25, 2014 at 10:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you are good teacher and you elaborate the things perfectly to the students then they will learn the things easily.

DeborahSmith (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2014 at 9:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This website is so cool and full of constructive information. Keep sharing and I will always support to such a great blog posts...

Fuzail123 (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I really like the idea of this.. As it remind me one of mine more precious work that I think is not done quite nicely and perfectly.

MaureenHanson (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2014 at 9:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

An interesting thought here as this one of the part of the work to do with in my area.

NikitaWilby (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2014 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: